Black History Month
All objects have a story to tell. Some stories are well known and easy to hear, but others are forgotten about, ignored or difficult to share. Behind the labels for the objects in museums are untold stories, which we are seeking to reveal.
We recognise that our permanent displays do not fully represent the people of Colchester. Through an ongoing series of projects, displays and interventions we aim to uncover more diverse stories. Working with local people and schools this programme will give a voice to some of these hidden histories.
Our first display in this series, West African Gold, opens at Colchester Castle in May 2021.
In anticipation of this display, we have invited Lawrence Walker, Chairperson of Colchester Black History Month, to write a blog post for us exploring the importance of Black History Month.
Black History Month has been marked in the UK for more than 30 years. It takes place during the month of October. It marks the Act of Parliament that abolished the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. It happens because, so often in the past, the contributions made by Black people to the community were ignored or played down because Black people were not treated the same way as other people because of the colour of their skin. Black History Month aims to address this unfairness, by celebrating the achievements and contributions of the Black community over the years.
We celebrate Black History Month because we believe that African and Caribbean students and communities need to feel affirmed.
- They need to be aware of the contributions made by other Black people in the United Kingdom.
- They need to have role models.
- They need to understand the social forces that have shaped and influenced their community and their identities, as a means of feeling connected to the educational experience and their life experience in various regions of Essex.
- They need to feel empowered. The greater Essex communities need to know a history of Great Britain that includes all of the founding and pioneering experiences in order to work from reality, rather than perception alone.
As a people, with roots dating back much further than the “Wind Rush” immigration, African and Caribbean people have defended, cleared, built and farmed this country; our presence is well established, but not well-known. The celebration of Black History Month is an attempt to have the achievements of Black people recognised and told.
We need a Black History Month in order to help us to arrive at an understanding of ourselves as being British, in the most accurate and complete socio-historical context that we can produce. As a nation with such diversity, all histories need to be known, all voices need to be expressed. Black history provides the binary opposite to all traditional histories. One needs traditional history to engender a common culture; one needs Black history to engender a clearer and more complete culture.
When the contributions of people of African descent are acknowledged, when the achievements of Black people are known, when Black people are routinely included or affirmed through our curriculum, our books and the media, and treated with equality, then there will no longer be a need for Black History Month.
And in the face of clear, and decisive evidence of the need for Black History Month, we want to invite everyone who would want to be a part of our celebrations of culture and heritage to get involved. We would like for everyone to feel that they have a voice to be heard, and a story to tell. We have a history that is as rich and as diverse as all the more popular and noted celebrations of culture in our country. This work and these affords of Black History Month are MOST important for our next generation British citizens.
I believe that if we educate our young people about the damage and the distress that racism and exclusion causes people of colour, we will then be on course to creating sustainable change in our communities. This is the way that attitudes and minds can be changed in a progressive society.